Sunday, 17 June 2007

All Rules are Guidelines, and Vice Versa

The ALIA Board is considering what rules should be agreed to by people who post to ALIA lists and otherwise engage with each other electronically. I guess that these rules will be pretty similar to rules which should apply in the offline world too. A draft version will be available to members soon.

I thought about the difference between rules for posting messages to a list, and guidelines (netiquette) and to be honest, I coudn't see a clear difference between the two. If rules can not be transgressed, and guidelines specify behaviours which, on the other hand, may be transgressed if necessary, the difference lies in the inflexibility of the rules. In the real world though, rules are mostly applied flexibly. There are concepts with names like "zero tolerance" and "mandatory sentencing" but most grown up people (like judges), when they think about it, realise that flexibility is the norm, and context is relevant to how we enforce rules.

When situation ethics was all the rage (and it still is - all grown up ethics are applied with reference to a context) we understood the ambiguity inherent in any rules for behaviour. Human life is too complex to be governed by a simple-to-apply set of rules, and ethics involves a pathway through options and choices.

This is meant to be an ALIA blog, and rules for behaviour are not the same thing as ethics. This post started off with a point about ALIA's rules and guidelines for posting to elists. Here is my list of rules/guidelines - try to be nice to people, and read everything one more time before you click on Send.

The new ALIA rules will necessarily be a little longer. Let me know what you think.

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